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Archive for the ‘Foreign Aid’ Category

I certainly take second place to nobody in my utter contempt for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund. Who knew that forcing yourself (allegedly) on women could earn you a reputation as “the Great Seducer”? I guess my failure to understand means I’m just a backwards and provincial American.

I’m also a bit old-fashioned in my approach to economics. I don’t think people should use the coercive power of government take what they haven’t earned. That’s why I hold international bureaucracies in low esteem. Most of my efforts have focused on the OECD, a Paris-based (gee, what a surprise) bureaucracy that squanders American tax dollars on statist schemes such as their ongoing anti-tax competition campaign that persecutes countries with low tax rates.

But I’m also a big believer in kicking an enemy while he’s vulnerable, so let’s shift to the International Monetary Fund. Here are some passages from a new column by my Cato colleague Doug Bandow. He points out that the IMF has a horrible track record of promoting and facilitating big government.

…the rape charges against him symbolize the IMF: an institution of privilege that routinely acts to the disadvantage of the vulnerable. The IMF’s founding purpose vanished when the system of fixed exchange rates collapsed in the early 1970s. But instead of closing up shop (no jobs for international bureaucrats in that!), the IMF switched to promoting development. That is, it became a welfare program for Third World governments (and, more recently, for Eastern Europe and even Greece). The IMF spent decades subsidizing the world’s economic basket cases. Few, if any, advanced because of its programs. …the agency often got “wise” wrong. It often focused on narrow accounting data, with perverse consequences — such as forcing governments to raise taxes rather than cut spending. …Years ago, economist John Williamson pointed to the problem of the IMF feeling pressure “to lend money in order to justify having it.” Indeed, the IMF seems to measure success by making loans. As a result, its cash often acted as a general subsidy for collectivist economic policies. (Williamson once defended the organization against the criticism that it was too market-oriented by pointing to its loans to several unreconstructed communist states.) Indeed, the agency proudly disclaimed any bias against collectivist systems, pointing to “programs in all types of economies” which had “accommodated such nonmarket devices as production controls, administered prices and subsidies.” It sometimes seems to favor the most perverse policies. For instance, in the IMF’s first 40 years, India collected more money from it than any other developing state — at a time when India was pursuing a Soviet-style industrialization program.

Ironically, some people are arguing that it is unfortunate that Strauss-Kahn is in jail at such a critical time, with several European welfare states teetering on the edge of default.

But this is actually very good news. If there is any chance of saving Europe, it will be precisely because bailouts stop and nations are forced to finally fix the awful big-government policies that have crippled growth and bloated budgets, thus leading to fiscal crises. Doug makes this essential point in the conclusion to his column, and also makes the key argument that it’s time to stop the handouts to this corrupt and wasteful bureaucracy.

The IMF’s loans have often likely postponed reform — allowing governments to keep going without making the tough changes that lead to long-term growth. That appears to be happening in Greece now — where the Fund has pushed more lending and a bigger bail-out (to the consternation of Germany, which is picking up much of the bill). Strauss-Kahn may finally have done a true public service by focusing attention on the IMF. With America drowning in red ink, Washington should stop throwing good money at this pernicious institution.

P.S. For those who want to hoist Europeans on their own petard, Tessa Berenson has a great little column at the Frum Forum pointing out how many of the political elite on the other side of the Atlantic thought it was horrible and inexcusable when an American head of the World Bank arranged for a pay raise for his girlfriend. The Europeans were right at the time, but they now turn a blind eye at a far more odious episode today.

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Here’s one of those “not just no, but Hell No” issues. The United Nations has put together a group of global collectivists to concoct a plan of global taxes. These new levies, on things such as airfares and energy use, would be used to finance bribes (oops, I mean foreign aid) to lure developing nations into a global warming (oops, I mean climate change) regime. 
Carbon taxes, add-ons to international air fares and a levy on cross-border money movements are among ways being considered by a panel of the world’s leading economists to raise a staggering $100 billion a year to fight climate change. British economist Nicholas Stern told international climate negotiators Thursday that government regulation and public money also will be needed to create incentives for private investment in industries that emit fewer greenhouse gases. In short, a new industrial revolution is needed to move the world away from fossil fuels to low carbon growth, he said. “It will be extremely exciting, dynamic and productive,” said Stern, one of 18 experts in public finance on an advisory panel appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. A climate summit held in Copenhagen in December was determined to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to climate change and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide trapping the sun’s heat. But the 120 world leaders who met in the Danish capital offered no ideas on how to raise that sum — $1 trillion every decade — prompting Ban to appoint his high-level advisory group. …The advisory panel is chaired by the prime ministers of Norway and Ethiopia and the president of Guyana. Its members include French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, billionaire financier George Soros and public planners from China, India, Singapore and several international banks.

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Advocates of limited government generally focus on domestic spending, pork-barrel projects, and entitlement programs. This is target-rich territory, to be sure, and especially inviting because most of the relevant programs and department shouldn’t exist. But just because national defense is a legitimate function of the federal government, that doesn’t mean that national security outlays are somehow immune from waste, fraud, and abuse. Here’s an all-too-typical story from Federal News Radio about the Defense Department being unable to account for a staggering 95 percent-plus of the funds channeled through the Development Fund for Iraq.

The Defense Department is unable to account for $8.7 billion of the $9.1 billion in Development Fund for Iraq monies in received for reconstruction in Iraq. This according to a study published today by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. …The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) finds that only one Defense organization actually set up the accounts required by the Treasury. “The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss,” SIGIR says. The study recommends that the Secretary of Defense create new accounting and reporting procedures to avoid such mistakes in the future. It also recommends designating an executive agent to oversee progress, establishing measurable milestones, and determining whether any DoD organizations are still holding DFI funds.

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In general, I don’t pay too much attention to issues in the Middle East. I know we squander $billions on foreign aid to prop up socialist policies in Egypt and Israel, and I obviously would like to see an end to that wasteful spending. But I’ve never had strong opinions on the foreign policy issues in the region that get most of the attention. That being said, I found myself somewhat sympathetic to Charles Krauthammer’s column on the topic. There’s no question that there is a campaign to end Israel’s blockade. And there’s no question that an end to the blockade will lead to shipments of weapons that would be used to attack Israel. So unless one wants Israel to be wiped out (or at least endlessly attacked), doesn’t Israel have no choice but to maintain a blockade? If your answer is no, what’s the alternative?

…the blockade is not just perfectly rational, it is perfectly legal. Gaza under Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel — a declaration backed up by more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian territory. Yet having pledged itself to unceasing belligerency, Hamas claims victimhood when Israel imposes a blockade to prevent Hamas from arming itself with still more rockets. In World War II, with full international legality, the United States blockaded Germany and Japan. And during the October 1962 missile crisis, we blockaded (“quarantined”) Cuba. Arms-bearing Russian ships headed to Cuba turned back because the Soviets knew that the U.S. Navy would either board them or sink them. Yet Israel is accused of international criminality for doing precisely what John Kennedy did: impose a naval blockade to prevent a hostile state from acquiring lethal weaponry. Oh, but weren’t the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel’s offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port, be inspected for military materiel and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza — as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza. Why was the offer refused? Because, as organizer Greta Berlin admitted, the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, i.e., ending Israel’s inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas. … The whole point of this relentless international campaign is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense.

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Let’s all be thankful this holiday season for our Founding Fathers, who wisely created a system based on separation of power. As such, when the Secretary of State blithely pontificates about fleecing American tapxayers to help finance $100 billion of added foreign aid, the good news is that this money can only be squandered if the House and Senate also agree. That’s a real possibility, of course, but at least there’s some hope that common sense will prevail since the fiscal burden of government already is far too large. Here’s a NY Daily News report on what’s happening in Copenhagen, including worrisome signs that politicians who don’t pay for their own travel are planning to make the rest of us pay more:

“The US is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. …While she would not disclose how much the U.S. would be contribution to the climate fund, Clinton said there would be a fair amount contributed to the pot that would be made available in 2020. The finances will reportedly be raised partially by taxing aviation and shipping, as proposed by the European Union.

Pat Buchanan, meanwhile, cuts to the heart of the issue, explaining for Townhall.com that global warming is a “racket” for the benefits of political elites:

“Zenawi said he would accept $30 billion in the short term, rising to $100 billion by 2020. … This was seen as a key concession by developing countries, which had previously spurned that figure … as too low.” There was a time when a U.S. diplomat would have burst out laughing after listening to a Third World con artist like this. But not the Obamaites. They are already ponying up. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack just pledged $1 billion at Copenhagen to developing countries who preserve their forests. Thus, America, $12 trillion in debt and facing a second straight $1.4 trillion deficit, will borrow another $1 billion from China to send to Brazil to bribe them to stop cutting down their trees. When you slice through the blather about marooned bears and melting ice caps, oceans rising and cities sinking, global warming is a racket and a crock. It is all about money and power. Copenhagen has always been about an endless transfer of wealth from America, Europe and Japan and creation of a global bureaucracy to control the pace of world economic and industrial development.

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The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page lifts a rock and looks at the sordid redistribution of other people’s money that is happening in Copenhagen. The unavoidable conclusion is that developing countries are there to cash in on a new foreign-aid boondoggle and rich countries are there because politicians are seeking a new source of power over their national economies:

Monday’s walkout revealed the real reason that the developing world is in Copenhagen in the first place: They see climate change as a potential foreign-aid bonanza, and they are at the table to leverage the West’s environmental angst into massive transfers of wealth. …the developed world has been pouring trillions of dollars into development aid in various forms for decades, with little to show for it. The reasons are well-known: Corruption, political oppression, government control of the economy and the absence of rule of law combine to keep poor countries poor. And those factors also ensure that most aid is squandered or skimmed off the top.Recasting foreign aid as “climate mitigation” won’t change any of that. …The G-77 scoffed at a European offer of €7.2 billion ($10 billion) over three years. Instead, the Sudanese chairman of the group, Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, suggested in an interview with Mother Jones magazine that something on the order of a trillion dollars, or more, would be appropriate. “The world’s scientists and policy decision makers have publicly stated that this is the greatest risk humanity has ever faced,” says Mr. Di-Aping. “Now if that’s the case, it’s very strange that $10 billion is considered adequate financing.” Mr. Di-Aping deserves credit for taking the climate alarmists on their own terms and drawing consistent conclusions.

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